After hearing the doctor ask, “Have you ever been exposed to diethystilbestrol (DES)?” my world slowly began to unravel. I was lying on the examining table undergoing infertility testing and while my own gynecologist is leaning over asking this question another doctor is frantically removing tubes declaring that something is wrong to the nurses who are assisting. This dashed all hopes for ever carrying a child as the internal deformities were too great. It also started a 4 year journey of medical tests and interventions as abnormal cell changes were found. By 1987 I underwent a complete hysterectomy with ovarian removal while still in my twenties.
This journey of grief sent me into very messy places and words spoken out of season were like sandpaper to my soul. This new, raw reality of life turned me inside out and many friends found my loss hard to respond to. I didn’t know how to respond to the pain as it affected me physically, emotionally, physiologically, spiritually and psychologically. Many days I was not easy to be around and I could not tell friends how to help me as I journeyed through the next days, months and years.
How do you help someone whose world has completely changed? How can you walk with someone through short term and long term grief? Through my own cries of pain let me share with you what hurt, what helped and what I realized I needed.
- When I was told “if you had enough faith, you would be healed.”
- When people said “I know what you’re going through.
- When people told me how “so and so” coped with their grief.
- To hear words like, “you can always adopt”.
Please don’t tell me that “All things work together for good…” or “God is in control and He doesn’t make mistakes.” Truth out of season were some of the most painful things as I was not in a place where hearing these words were helpful.
Please don’t hide behind platitudes no matter how well-intentioned.
Please don’t ask “what do you need?” when someone is in a place of grieving, pain or suffering. Just do.
- When meals were brought over.
- When baking was left at the doorstep.
- When someone mowed the grass while medical appointments were taking place hours away.
- To have a friend come and vacuum the house while recuperating from surgery.
- And brightened my soul with flowers and thoughtful gifts.
- When you brought laughter even in the midst of tears.
- To receive tender prayers.
When a simple hug was given.
- When I heard “I’m so sorry”.
- When I heard “I love you”.
- When cards continued to come weeks, months after surgery.
- To know others understood my absence from baby showers even while I rejoiced with them.
- When people just listened.
- When friends understood that some days I was more “touchy” than others.
- How tough it is to reach out for help.
- How sharing struggles bonds people together.
- That caring for others is one of the greatest gifts we can offer and one of the hardest to receive.
- That suffering can isolate the sufferer especially when the journey of grief is long.
- That the stages of grief cannot be rushed through.
- That echoes of pain may still remain
- The importance of being there for someone when the crowd may have moved on.
I realize now
- That God does bring beauty from ashes, in His time and in His season.
- That out of this season of pain and grief there has been personal and spiritual growth.
- That I have learned how to listen, how to respond from those who gave these same gifts to me
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